Seminole Approves A Union

UFF-Seminole becomes the 25th bargaining chapter of the UFF/FEA/AFT/NEA

Full-time faculty members, librarians and counselors at Seminole State College of Florida wanted to have a greater input at their school, especially concerning curriculum and educational matters.

 

Many faculty members felt their input through advisory committees wasn't being heard sufficiently, said Michael Hoover, president of the United Faculty of Florida’s Seminole State chapter and a political science professor at the school. “There has been a growing frustration.”

 

In a vote which gleened a 92 percent turnout, their right to have a say in decision-making dramitcally improved. Faculty at Seminole State College voted to unionize and gain collective bargaining rights.

 

Despite opposition by college administrators, the school’s four trustees said a union could have a negative impact, take away resources from students, be time-consuming and stunt the college’s growth, this organizing effort ignited due to the energy of younger faculty and professionals, says Hoover. They were increasingly uncomfortable with how the administration dealt with the work of faculty-based committees. "The administration did not give serious consideration to committees' recommendations and findings," says Hoover. This was part of a broader problem of employees not feeling they were being treated with professional respect. Such an environment permeates all aspects of work, and throws into question how much faculty and staff can rely on governance vehicles like the faculty senate and faculty handbook.

"Faculty feel the union will provide us with a more equitable seat at the table," Hoover says. "We've tried to stress the potential for being able to work together-differences are what led to the movement to begin with."

 

UFF-Seminole becomes the 25th bargaining chapter of the UFF/FEA/AFT/NEA. The state affiliate represents nearly 23,000 faculty, staff and graduate employees in higher education institutions (public and private, two-year and four-year).

 

In mid-October, the state labor board will mail ballots for an election of department chairs at Florida International University.

 

Studies have shown that faculty unions tend to equalize the pay of all teachers, so it becomes harder to reward merit or pay more in certain fields such as math or science where it’s hard to get faculty, said University of Florida economist David Denslow. For example, an English teacher may make the same as a chemistry professor, who could make more in private industry.

 

Community colleges also tend to be more flexible and responsive ... than universities in meeting the business community’s needs, providing programs as needed. A union would make it harder for a school to change faculty and programs, he said.

 

The college has 1,376 workers, making it one of Seminole County’s biggest employers. Of those, 208 are full-time teachers with an average salary of $65,800. Seminole State pays $52 million annually in employee payroll and benefits out of a $65 million budget.

 

Seminole State College President Ann McGee said she’s committed to solving any issues and has a open-door policy. A union contract could take away the flexibility the college has in working with employees individually, she said.

However, Edward Mitchell, executive director of Tallahassee-based United Faculty of Florida, said unionizing is simply about faculty wanting to “contractualize the relationship.”

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